22nd Mar2013

My Favourite Cult Actors

by Phil Wheat

Whilst working on my “Movies You May Have Missed” regular feature, I realised that I wanted to not only feature movies that may have passed people by, but also highlight some of my favourite actors. And not just any old actors, oh no, I wanted to focus on those hard-working actors who churn out film after film, many of which go (undeservedly I may add) straight to DVD and Blu-ray.

And I’m not talking about those actors that have some mainstream exposure – so there’ll be no Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme or Chuck Norris here. Those guys are too mainstream in my opinion to be considered truly “cult.” After all, they’ve all had some cinematic exposure in the last twenty years. Hell, Chuck Norris has even become an internet meme!

No, when I think cult actors I think of the likes of Reb Brown, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Lorenzo Lamas, Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, David Heavener and Julie Strain. Now some of you maybe asking “Who?” and that’s why I’m here. Let me guide you on a whistle-stop tour of a few of my favourite cult stars and their movies.

DON “THE DRAGON” WILSON

Don_the_Dragon_Wilson

Born in Florida to an American father and Japanese mother, Don “The Dragon” Wilson was one of the most successful kickboxers of his era. Winning a total of 11 World Titles across many of the sports sanctioning bodies, Wilson’s kickboxing career spanned 4-decades; often running concurrently with his film career.

Wilson’s film career actually began with a small role in the Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything, where he appeared as lead actor John Cusack’s kickboxing teacher. Always one to spot a good thing, Roger Corman signed up Wilson to appear in a Bloodsport clone released in 1989 entitled Bloodfist. Not content with making just one film, Wilson went on to appear in a direct sequel in 1990 and a further seven Bloodfist movies between 1990 and 1996, most of which had nothing in common with each other – not even Wilson’s character. Quickly becoming a direct-to-video superstar, Wilson starred in over 30 movies in the twenty year span between his debut in 1989 and his last film – 2007’s sci-fi epic The Last Sentinel, which also starred Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackoff. Besides the Bloodfist franchise, Wilson was also the star of two other film franchises – the Cyber Tracker series and possibly his magnum opus, the Ring of Fire series: Ring of Fire; Rage: Ring of Fire II and Lion Strike: Ring of Fire 3. Wilson’s DTV career was such a success that in 1995 he appeared as one of the villains in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever!

Another star on the comeback trail, Don “The Dragon” Wilson has recently returned to his acting career after a five year break, appearing in the critically-acclaimed short film Liberator alongside Peta Wilson and Lou Ferrigno.

Career highlights: Bloodfist 4, Future Kick, Ring of Fire II, Lion Strike, Redemption

LINNEA QUIGLEY

Linnea

One of the biggest horror stars of the 80s, Linnea Quigley quickly became synonymous with the term “Scream Queen” after appearing in no less than 11 horror films between 1981 and 1989. Despite not finding mainstream fame until her role as the sexy punk Trash in 1985’s Return of the Living Dead, Quigley had actually paid her dues in plenty of low-budget genre films including the video nasty Don’t Go Near the Park and slasher movie Graduation Day. However Quigley’s big break undoubtedly came in a non-horror film, the sleazy revenge thriller Savage Streets, where she played the deaf sister of star Linda Blair.

Quigley followed that role with appearances in two now-classic horror movies: Silent Night Deadly Night, where she was unceremoniously impaled on the stuffed and mounted head of a deer; and the aforementioned Return of the Living Dead, which brought her to the attention of the mainstream, and to other horror filmmakers, who swiftly built films around her fame and her growing popularity amongst horror fans. Roles in Nightmare Sisters, Dead Heat and Creepozoids followed before Quigley hit it big with her 1988 trifecta of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama and one of the best (at least in my opinion) cult horrors of the decade, Night of the Demons, which was later remade in 2009.

Reaching the dizzy heights of appearing in her own workout tape (in 1990) alongside zombies and bikini-clad babes, Linnea Quigley has worked steadily since, appearing in at least one film a year up to this very day, appearing in films made by fans of her early work, all the while finding a new generation of horror fans

Career highlights: Return of the Living Dead, Creepozoids, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Night of the Demons, Girls Gone Dead.

LORENZO LAMAS

Lamas

A former soap star, appearing in all 227 episodes of the US prime-time soap Falcon Crest, Lorenzo Lamas actually began his career with a small role as Tom Chisum in Grease. However it wasn’t until his post-Falcon Crest film career that Lamas achieved cult notoriety, with roles in the cheesy breakdancing flick Body Rock in 1984 and the starring role in the 1989 action film Snake Eater. Since ’89 Lamas has starred in over 40 movies, many of which cross genres – from action movies to horror films, and even a few creature-features!

Unlike many of his cult movie compatriots, Lamas actually made the transition to television with lead role in Renegade, starring as Reno Raines, a police officer who is framed for a murder by a corrupt police chief, promptly escapes from jail, and turns renegade bounty hunter in the action-packed Stephen J. Cannell show. Lamas followed that series with starring roles in two more series: Air America (inspired by the Mel Gibson movie) and The Immortal, a show with more than a hint of “Highlander” about it.

Lorenzo Lamas has since returned to the land of soap operas with a role in The Bold and the Beautiful – in which he appeared in till 2007, before carving out a solid TV-friendly career in low-budget sci-fi movies such as 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus and Raptor Ranch.

Career highlights: Snake Eater, Final Impact, CIA: Codename Alexa, Midnight Man, 13 Dead Men

REB BROWN

Reb-Brown

A familiar face on US television in the 70s, Reb Brown made guest appearances on many popular TV shows of the decade. He was even the original Captain America in the two TV movies lensed on 1979! In the early 80s Brown made the transition to the big screen, scoring roles in films such as Uncommon Valor alongside Gene Hackman, and Death of a Soldier, which also starred James Coburn. However the end of the decade marked a change in Brown’s career, as he transitioned from co-starring roles in Hollywood films to starring roles in some of the greatest (well, depending on who you ask) cult movies of the 1980s.

Having already starred in Italian director Antonio Margheriti’s sci-fi opus Yor in 1983, Brown teamed up with another Italian director, the shlock-meister Bruno Mattei, who was infamous for helming a number of “video nasties”, many of which were knock-offs of much better movies, for 1987’s Strike Commando and 1988’s RoboWar (which must be seen to be believed). Brown swiftly followed those films up with more Vietnam-vet themed films, many of which saw Brown play very similar characters and many of which were filmed on the cheap in the Philippines. Brown’s career slowed by the 90s and his last starring role was in 1994’s Cage II alongside former Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno. However 2012 saw Reb Brown make a comeback, some 14 years after his last role, in cult director David A. Prior’s werewolf flick Night Claws.

Career highlights: Strike Commando, RoboWar, Last Flight to Hell, Space Mutiny, Cage.

So that’s just a few of my favourite cult actors. Here’s hoping that I’ve inspired you to look a little deeper into the straight to DVD bargain bins and discover your own favourite cult movies and cult stars…

Originally written for the Jameson Cult Film Blog
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